Tag Archives: alex-cox

Radical Alex Cox ‘Repo Man’ inspired weblog redesign

Thanks to Alex Cox I’ve radically redesigned my ‘blog inspired by the product branding used in his seminal 1984 film ‘Repo Man’.

Written and directed by Alex, with the ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith as Executive Producer, Repo Man stars Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton as repossession agents on the trail of missing car with a little extra in the boot (a stolen ‘nuke). It’s a satirical and surreal comedy, widely seen as one of the first truly independent movies (along with it’s stable mate, the excellent ‘Rumble Fish’). It has a great, mainly Punk, soundtrack, including Black Flag’s ‘TV Party’, and songs performed by Iggy Pop, Suicidal Tendencies, The Circle Jerks, The Plugz, Burning Sensations, Fear and Juicy Bananas.

I was really struck by the product branding used in Repo Man – it’s pure and simple function over the aesthetic (with a good dollop of humorous irony thrown in for good measure).

After writing to Alex to ask his permission to use the branding as the basis of the look and feel of the site I was very happy to receive a reply (in quick order too).

Here’s Alex’s response:

You’re welcome to use that look.

It was originally the brainchild of Ralphs Supermarket in Los Angeles, who gave us all their generic stuff. The only labels we had to make said Drink and Food.

John Lydon also used it for his PIL album, ALBUM aka CASSETTE.

So you are in good company!

All best


Permanent US bases in Iraq? Afraid so.


I was really pleased about getting a reply as I’m a big fan of Alex, and of his work, and not just because he does the best Jimmy Carl Black impression I’ve ever seen.

As Alex rightly points out the look and feel was later used by John Lydon’s post Sex Pistols / Post Punk band Public Image Limited for their generic release, called ‘Compact Disc’ or ‘Album’ or ‘Cassette’ depending on the format (the branding extended to the singles released, the promotional materials, and the merchandising too).

There are other people for me to thank for different elements of the new look and feel, and of especial mention is Dave Johnson.

For those of you who don’t know Dave, he is the creator and driving force behind the Roller Weblogger (now a project in the Apache Software Foundation) used at Sun Microsystems as it’s ‘blogging platform of choice (it powers blogs.sun.com), as well as being a fellow Sun employee.

Whilst recently reading Dave’s blog I had an idea that the colour scheme and basic layout he used would be a near perfect springboard for the ideas I had around using the product branding used in Repo Man as the basis for my sites look and feel redesign.

Thanks to Dave, or rather his blog I’ve rebuilt the basic layout of this site, incorporating the Repo Man inspired look and feel. To properly credit Dave I added “Derived: Dave Johnson’s Rollerblogger blog CSS” to the header of my CSS file.

Additionally theres a few more people to thank including www.khmerang.com, who’s post on ‘Real World Bar Graphs (with some CSS)’ helped my develop the Tag Pareto / Bar Graph, which I’m using as a page leader rather than the ubiquitous Tag Cloud (although there is an obligatory Tag Cloud on my archives page).

Then there’s blogs.sun.com/junkfood, who’s multiple posts on Roller Hacking, specifically ‘Roller: Re-ordering the Category Bar’ helped me develop the code for sorting the Tag’s by frequency.

That then led my to develop two other new pieces of functionality using Roller’s in built template scripting language ‘velocity’.

Firstly a new menu which incorporates both the page menu functionality and the category menu functionality – it’s included in the banner at the top of the page.

Secondly a new recent posts menu which both adapts to the currently chosen category and instead of linking to the individual page for an entry it instead links to an anchor on the page of the main blog (also current category dependent). The advantage here is that the reader still has the choice of reading posts around the target post – if they attract the eye

I also have to thank the friends and colleagues who read reviewed my blog. A constant theme that came out in the comments made by them that the nature of the site was too diverse. Amusingly Walter Milner had this to say, which I thought was the most succinct (and most humorous):

So relating to blogging – we have multiple aspects of our personalities, and I suspect that if you mix them on the same ‘channel’ you construct a confused message. One aspect is working at Sun/programming in C/PRINCE, another is a bizarre experience of a walk-on role in ‘The Birds’. I think you should separate them.

And why have you got some 5 channel paper tape as your banner? ;-)

However many of the reviewers wanted different things from my blog. Family (and some friends) generally wanted light fluffy stuff, like what’s going on at home, and what music am I listening to. Work friends generally wanted Sun Microsystems specific content. Whilst friends I had made in the IT Industry generally wanted generic technology information and opinion. Personally I also wanted to be able to blog about contemporary issues and news, in fact to use my blog as a diary of the significant events occurring around me.

In an attempt to reach a compromise I ratiionalised my blog categories, ‘boiling’ them down to only four categories (not including root, or ‘All’, which makes five). The four are: (1) Home – personal stuff, what record I’m listening too, etc., (2) Life – contemporary news, etc., (3) Tech – from micro IT to macro IT, technology and the technology industry, and (4) Work – stuff about Sun Microsystems, etc.

I’m hoping that by simplifying the categories down to four core areas, and by providing category specific functionality (now and more in the future), it will be easier for readers of this blog to navigate and find the stories and information pertinent to them.

And for those of you who haven’t seen Repo Man, obviously I recommend seeing it, and here’s a link to the theatrical trailer (hosted over at YouTube) for you to either get a ‘taster’ of the film, or remind yourself of it. In one scene in the trailer you can briefly see Emilio Estevez, as ‘Otto’, eating out of a can simply labeled ‘food’ – wonderful.

Link to above clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=554AX4l1tmw

Relevant links: